Portable safe spaces and occupying the occupation

Occupy the World is fantastic. It is wonderful and inspiring and in 2,000 cities around the world. It is the first truly global popular protest movement, it’s made up of dedicated and self-sacrificing people with the noblest and best intentions. It is not vague, it is not spoiled, it is not destructive. It’s ace, OK?

But Occupy the World is, well, part of the world. And that means that it contains, in microcosm, a lot of what is bad about the world as it is. To whit: patriarchy[1].

Some people think that it’s OK to use the occupations as a pick-up opportunity; or so at least they claim – personally I take Amanda Marcotte’s view that they are threatened by politically active women and are trying to belittle them through objectification. Other people think – and have thought from Day One on Tahrir Square – that the bodies of women are theirs for the taking, that sexual violence is exempt from the demands for a better future. These people are often bolstered in their belief by organisers and sympathisers who pressure women to forgo the small aims of justice and safety for the greater aims of the movement[2].

More prosaically, I know of women who have been heckled, called gendered names, dismissed, silenced and intimidated at several of the camps. I’m sure this is endemic in most if not all camps, not because the people occupying are bad people, but because it is widespread and endemic in the world. Not entirely surprisingly, all of this[3] has added up to a somewhat subdued female participation rate in the Occupy movement.

This is not quite OK, as far as I’m concerned. What the heck point is it in changing the world for half the people, by half the people? If you’re going to be like that, then it should be “we are the 48%”, not “we are the 99%”.

So, last Sunday, my friend Jess organised a Feminist Picnic at Occupy Bristol. We came, we ate, we sat in a friendly circle, we interacted with the occupiers and the public (it was an “open family day”), and coincidentally we had an impromptu discussion about pole dancing. The sun shone and all was well with the world.

For a while..

 

 

Article shamelessly stolen from Marina S

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